A Beautiful Morning

SunriseIt’s 6:15am  and having been awake for an hour already, I shuffle back to the bedroom to make the bed. Tom is somewhere zooming down the interstate to work already. It looks like sunshine today according to the forecast.

I pull up the bedding on one side and make my way to the other side. Suddenly,  the comforter is thrown back, startling me. A small, rosy face appears and a girly laugh rings out.

“Surprised you, didn’t I?”

It’s Emmy, my early bird, up already on this Monday school morning. She’s all warm and sweet in her pink penguin nightgown, hair in frowzled disarray.

Our early rising buys us time to  play a bit. We discuss and experiment to find out which toe is most ticklish, which, of course, leads to lots of giggling. Em then talks about her bike and how excited she is to practice after school, so she can ride with her daddy on the bike trail near our house.

Emmy retrieves her navy school tights from the drawer to get dressed and laments the discovery of a small hole in one foot. “It’ll do for today, but who knows what it’ll look like tonight,” she says, rolling her eyes dramatically. For some reason, that makes us both laugh.

Face washed and her hair affixed with a bright pink clip,  we go to see about breakfast. She has recently discovered the delicacy of toast sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, so I assure her that is on the menu.

An egg goes into the pan, a jumbo one, and she comments on the enormous hen that must have laid the egg. She eats a banana and drinks orange juice from a pink straw. Then the much anticipated cinnamon toast.

“This is very RICH,” she says, licking the sweetness from her lips.

She tells me they are learning a song in choir called, “Whistle a Happy Tune” and sings a few snatches for me. She says that she isn’t sure when they’re singing it but promises to tell me when they let her know.

She asks if she could have spaghetti and meatballs in a thermos today instead of a sandwich. I remember we have a can of such and agree that it sounds like a good Monday lunch. Preparations are made.

On this third day of spring, I note that the sun is already coming through my kitchen windows that face to the east.   There’s a feeling of hope in the air. Thanks to my new hearing aids, I hear the birds twittering in the towering pine out the window. They feel it, too.

We head out the door, and it is determined that Em has too much to carry into school by herself today, so I promise to come in with her to carry her heavy backpack. For some reason, this makes her very happy.

We are the first to arrive as we often are.  Both of us are early birds today. Inside the classroom, she shows me her desk which has been moved, I am told. I admire it all and help her get her things hung up.

Finally, I tell her good-bye and start for the door, but she runs and throws her arms around me. My little girl and late in life project, my unexpected blessing and head lifter.  As I leave, one of her friends comes down the hall all smiles. I feel a rush of gratitude for the little Christian school she attends and the excellent people who make the environment such a positive place to learn.

The chilly, fresh air hits my face as I make my way back to the car.

What a beautiful morning, I think. A beautiful, lovely morning.

And I am thankful to God for it.

 

 

 

 

Love is a Verb

The current model of girlhood in our culture, beginning at a very young age, is disturbing on many levels.

Emily asked me recently if she was pretty. I assured her that she was, and then we talked about what made girls really lovely. I told her that beautiful girls are the ones who care about other people and who know how to use their hands and their minds to do something useful for others.

We talked about kindness and how that makes people attractive. “You can have an outside that’s shiny and perfect, and yet have a rotten, ugly inside,” I told her. She took all of that in thoughtfully.

The concept of sacrificing for others isn’t a celebrated theme in our culture. Many young girls spend countless hours texting their lives away with nonsense, wasting precious time, living for themselves, while parents sacrifice to give them the latest technology. It’s foolish and a tragic use of their minds, bodies and gifts.

Countering the current mentality is not easy, but as mothers, we can demonstrate service towards others and love in action, and we can pray that the model we give our girls is one of usefulness rather than self-worship and sloth that is sure destruction.

The best message we can give our daughters and sons is that love is action, not just words. Whether ironing school blouses or making a meal or shoveling or whatever it is that comes to us to do, all of it is serving those we love. Even if we think we are unappreciated, these acts of service are never wasted. It does something in our own character. As Christ-ians, if we aren’t doing this, we are using a name we are not entitled to. Love acts. Anything less is fraud.

ironing

Keep on the Sunny Side!

After we have prayed and asked for Divine help, after we’ve asked whether there’s anything we can do in a bad situation, we have to walk towards the sun (Son!) and carry on.

I have always loved this little song. Keeping on the “sunny side” doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge and do what we can when evil is staring us in the face or someone else in the face, but ultimately, we can’t let evil overcome good. With social media putting every societal and personal evil on graphic and horrific display, it’s a choice to not be enthralled by the dark side of life, and to stay firmly on the sunny side instead.

Many of us with children to raise in our dark times are even more acutely aware of this need. Yes, there are many frightening and horrible things on the landscape, but where we can, we are called to create a safe place where our families can still see and feel warmth, love and beauty that God provides each day.

Our little girl, Emmy,  adores this song. I have to repeat it several times when I play it, because she dances around with her dolls when I do.

Call Back, if You Get Ahead

I read this post today from “Streams in the Desert.” Have you ever had someone “call back” and encourage you in your life?

Life is a steep climb, and it does the heart good to have somebody “call back” and cheerily beckon us on up the high hill. We are all climbers together, and we must help one another. This mountain climbing is serious business, but glorious. It takes strength and steady step to find the summits. The outlook widens with the altitude. If anyone among us has found anything worthwhile, we ought to “call back.”

If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back—
’Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And if, perchance, Faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go.

Call back, and tell me that He went with you into the storm;
Call back, and say He kept you when the forest’s roots were torn;
That, when the heavens thunder and the earthquake shook the hill,
He bore you up and held you where the very air was still.

Oh, friend, call back, and tell me for I cannot see your your face,
They say it glows with triumph, and your feet bound in the race;
But there are mists between us and my spirit eyes are dim,
And I cannot see the glory, though I long for word of Him.

But if you’ll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry,
And if you’ll say He saw you through the night’s sin-darkened sky
If you have gone a little way ahead, oh, friend, call back—
’Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track.
—Selected

From “Streams in the Desert”

This song says it all.

Next Thursday We Will Sing

Our Thanksgiving plans are set, and Lord willing, we will have a houseful as we gather in gratitude for all the things the Lord has done. We are not only grateful, we are grateful to the Giver of all of it.

These are dark and dangerous times. Not only is the world as a whole in great turmoil, but so many that we know are going through deep trials of various kinds. Those of us in our family have also faced great difficulty in various ways in the last year. That changes nothing as we gather to say thank you to the One who sustains us all.

I told my sister that when she and her husband, Russ and their four children come, they should bring their musical instruments. Russ and Lisa’s children sing as well as play instruments, and I am printing off song sheets for us all. Even the grandsons, Peter and Max, can play the rhythm instruments and make music.

The first song we will sing is a song written several centuries ago in the middle of a horrific time in history. The simple hymn, Now Thank We All Our God, was not written in an American suburb in a centrally heated home with food in the cupboards and a fully plumbed bath and warm beds. It was written in a time of war, with death and want all around.

Here’s a little glimpse of the environment in which a humble pastor, Martin Rinckart lived:

The plague of 1637 visited Eilenburg with extraordinary severity; the town was overcrowded with fugitives from the country districts where the Swedes had been spreading devastation, and in this one year 8,000 persons died in it. The whole of the town council except three persons, a terrible number of school children, and the clergymen of the neighbouring parish, were all carried off; and Rinckart had to do the work of three men, and did it manfully at the beds of the sick and dying. He buried more than 4,000 persons, but through all his labours he himself remained perfectly well. The pestilence was followed by a famine so extreme that thirty or forty persons might be seen fighting in the streets for a dead cat or crow. Rinckart, with the burgomaster and one other citizen, did what could be done to organize assistance, and gave away everything but the barest rations for his own family, so that his door was surrounded by a crowd of poor starving wretches, who found it their only refuge.

That was the state of things. Here’s more:

After all this suffering came the Swedes once more, and imposed upon the unhappy town a tribute of 30,000 dollars. Rinckart ventured to the camp to entreat the general for mercy, and when it was refused, turned to the citizens who followed him, saying, “Come, my children, we can find no hearing, no mercy with men, let us take refuge with God.” He fell on his knees, and prayed with such touching earnestness that the Swedish general relented, and lowered his demand at last to 2,000 florins. (Source: Martin Rinckart)

In this environment of suffering and want, the pastor wrote a brief hymn of thanks to His heavenly Father. Here are the words.

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Our daughter Emily, age 6, has learned this hymn at school. She will lead us off by singing the first stanza on Thanksgiving Day, and we will all join in the rest, with Tom on trumpet, Will at the piano, and Rachel on Viola and the grandbabes on the rhythm instruments.

In light of the manifold blessings we enjoy every single day, how can we do any less but thank God? If Rev. Rinckart could pen this hymn in the midst of such suffering, what is our excuse for not recognizing God’s blessings?

I hope all of you have a joyful Thanksgiving time, wherever you may be, in whatever you are facing. God has not forgotten you.

thanksgiving-songs

The Greatest Fear

“The greatest fear in the world is the opinion of others, and the moment you are unafraid of the crowd, you are no longer a sheep. You become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart. The roar of freedom.”

A friend who is older than I am told me a few months ago that one of the advantages of growing older as a woman was a loss of the crippling fear of the opinion of others. “I don’t know exactly why it is,” she said, “But I used to walk into a room of people and worry about whether they liked me. Now, I ask myself if I like them, and why I am in the room in the first place!”

It’s true. Fundamentalist Christian culture, in a very special way, is infected with the disease of image consciousness. There is no gossip heaven like the “born-agains” (mocking the frauds here, not the real deal.)  A few hairs out of place, baby, and you’ve just earned a place on a black list somewhere! Some even read this blog out of some ungodly need to stalk me and find something that can be used as dirt. I am laughing as I type. (Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war. With our latest targets, bleeding on the floor!)

I saw this meme today, and it nails the problem down.

opinion-meme

Those who form negative opinions about our lives, lives that don’t have anything to do with theirs in any way whatsoever, are sad people without adequate productive work to busy themselves. As someone who once was terrorized at the thought of people having false impressions or forming bad opinions of me based on lies, it now has the whiff of comedy about it. Dark comedy, but worthy of a laugh track. Who are these people who have never had the slightest love or concern for me or my family or ever had a personal interaction with us? Who cares what they think?! They are less than nobody to me and my dear loved ones.

What a freeing thing it is when you get out of a closed environment and breathe clean air, and with the clean air, find a surge of strength to speak the truth on your heart. What a freeing thing it is to shut the door on those who taught you how to judge others ruthlessly, to see things with narrow, loveless little eyes. It is true freedom to walk away from those who devalued and discarded you when you were no longer useful to their cause. It is a good thing to see this clearly and understand the cold, hard truth, and then proceed all the wiser.

Some Good News

Everybody has seen the horror on TV of wildfires that clear out entire forests, destroying everything in their path. After the fires are put out, there is a short period of time where all looks wiped out. Completely burned over and dead. But beneath the ruined forest there is life. It takes time, but slowly and surely, nature replaces the dead and the burned over with new life, ironically, fostered in the rich soil created by the fire. This article puts it this way:

But ecologically, fire has its place, and it’s not one of complete destruction. In fact, in ecosystems, fires initiate a process of growth. They destroy and they leave a space, a space that is soon filled with new growth. After the fires, the forest reawakens.

In Colorado Springs, there’s an ecological flip side to the fire. The forests were full of White and Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, and Aspen trees.  This ecology is adapted to the changes that fire brings. It knows what to do.

After a fire, aspen trees grow. Even if the tree itself has been decimated by fire, this fast-growing tree can easily sprout from the roots that have been left behind. The sunny spaces left behind by the fire give life to the new aspen trees. In turn, the trees’ roots hold the soil in place, and their leaves slow down the rainfall, reducing the danger of flash floods.

With the return of the aspen, comes the revival of the slower-growing Ponderosa Pine. This tree loves the sunshine. Its thick bark can protect the tree from small fires, allowing it to thrive in the more open ecology after a fire moves through. If the tree did not survive, new trees will grow in amongst the baby aspens, rebuilding the local ecology from the ground up. (Read more here.)

What is true of forest fires can also be true for people. The consuming fires in our lives seem to destroy everything worthwhile. But God, in his mercy, often allows the fires to remove what needs removing from our lives that something new and healthy can grow. It’s not all destruction. What’s been consumed is what needed consuming. A lot of what we considered good, is sometimes very bad for us, including some people who have harmed us terribly. The beautiful regrowth of things begins, and you realize that much dead wood, much that was unhealthy is now gone. That’s a beautiful thing for those who can see it.

If you’re seeing the flames at the moment, hang on. If you’re patient and don’t give up, God will show you new growth soon, and it will be something new and healthy and vibrant. Don’t give up!

seeds

The Three D’s of a Strong Woman

Strong women are a study of mine. What makes them succeed, even in the face of adversity, while others fall apart? We all need to be strong in the various challenges we face.What do strong women have in common?

Earlier today, my sister, Lisa Turner, took First Place, sixth overall, in her age group at the Lake Country Half Marathon. My sister tosses off half marathons and marathons as if they were nothing. But in reality, she prepares intensively for the races. She is a coach to other runners who want training for their own races, and Lisa recently returned from a clinic operated by a former Olympian runner in Colorado who helps coaches train with excellence.

I asked Lisa after the race today what three things she would list as key practices of a successful runner that might apply to the race of life in general. She gave me these three D’s immediately:

Determination – a strong mind that has been trained to overcome ALL the negative thoughts that keep me from giving my best effort.

Discipline – the regular consistent “practice” of asking the body to do what it naturally doesn’t want to do…day after day.

Dependence – trusting the Lord for wisdom in training appropriately, for the ability to maintain determination and discipline , and ultimately, reliance on him for every breath as I run!

These points don’t need much elaboration. Determination, discipline and dependence on God are key in whatever race we run in our lives.

We live in a slovenly, morally lazy age where it’s easier to slouch our way through life, taking the easiest path, avoiding challenges of any kind and hiding when the call goes out for athletes of our Lord. We all need determination to live right in the sight of God with his help, we all need the discipline to throw off the things that hold us back and above all, we need humility to recognize our dependence on our Creator who grants us every breath we take.

Congratulations to my sister and amazing athlete, Lisa. I may not be an athlete, but I have learned much from you!

Here’s my sister in action today, running like the wind.

halfmarathonSept.